To say that Turlock High School’s Class of 2015 just met graduation requirements would be am immense understatement.
Out of the 464 graduating seniors, 35 were recognized as Distinguished Scholars, 21 earned the Stanislaus County Office of Education Seal of Multilingual Proficiency, 86 received life memberships with California Scholarship Federation, and 126 acquired academic achievement medallions.
“You may not realize it, but the Class of 2015 is one of the most academically outstanding classes we’ve had at Turlock High School,” said Principal Marie Peterson. “Wherever the path to their future takes them, they should never forget where they came from and remember that they will always be Turlock Bulldogs.
To name just a few accomplishments, Makenzie Salyer was named an Outstanding Young Woman by the Stanislaus County Commission for Women, Natalie Larson received an athletic scholarship, and David Tomlinson earned a full ride academic scholarship from the Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
The high school’s Jazz Band members joined together in perfect harmony for an undefeated season, the school’s Occupational Olympics team won the Stanislaus competition for the 18th year in a row, and THS athletes earned numerous Central California Conference titles and other achievements.
“Be proud of these accomplishments, be proud of your school, be proud of your fellow classmates,” said Turlock Unified School District Board member Bob Weaver, “and most of all—be proud of yourself.”
Among the abundance of success stories produced by the class of 2015, there was this year’s valedictorian Henna Hundal, who earned a cumulative grade point average of 4.73—the highest grade point average ever attained at THS.
If that was not impressive enough, Hundal has most recently been selected to attend Harvard University out of 37,205 applicants.
Throughout her high school career, she has been involved in numerous extracurricular and off-campus activities, and has also been published by local and national publications, such as CNN iReport and Huffington Magazine.
“Four years have come and gone, and we’ve all trekked our different journeys,” said Hundal. “Maybe you sailed by smoothly, or maybe you had some steep hills to climb.
“But either way, you’re here. We’re here. We made it,” continued Hundal.
Hundal spoke of the “real world,” which she said will consist both of mornings waking up ready to conquer the world and days weighed down with inevitable uncertainty.
She revealed that no matter what her fellow graduates chose to do after high school, whether it’s going to college, getting a job or taking a yearlong hiatus, their future was promising.
“I hope you exceed every expectation, shock the world and live extraordinary lives,” said Hundal. “I look forward to hearing about the records you break, political offices you attain, cures you discover, products you invent and people you help.
“The best is yet to come,” concluded Hundal.
Student Board Representative, Speech and Debate Team Captain, and the unmistakable voice behind the school’s morning announcements Nicholas Vardeh presented the Class of 2015 Address.
Throughout his tenure at THS, Vardeh played varsity tennis all four years, participated in the school’s Drama Club, and was described by administrators as a influential young leader throughout the school.
He is set to attend University of California, Santa Cruz where he will pursue a major in Community Studies.
During his address, Vardeh expressed his gratitude for family, friends, teachers, Google, Wikipedia, Sparknotes and especially venti cappuccinos with two extra shots for getting him through his high school career and commended his peers for their latest accomplishment: graduating high school.
“Just by receiving this diploma, you are 95 percent more likely to receive a job, you are 75 percent less likely to commit a felony and you are 58 less likely to end up on Jerry Springer,” laughed Vardeh.
Behind the podium, Vardeh described his senior year as a year of revelation. Not only did he begin to realize that his time as a Turlock Bulldog was coming to a close, but so was the last chapter of his childhood book.
“In four months, 120 days, I am going to turn into someone I don’t know I can become,” said Vardeh. “Even though this is a frightening concept, I have confidence in not only the wisdom given to me by teachers and family, but also the wisdom given to me by my friends.”
Although Friday’s commencement ceremony was filled with happy and triumphant moments for the nearly 500 graduating seniors, the celebration for the family of Kayla Bernardi was one tinged with grief.
Described as a beautiful, bright and extraordinary young lady, Bernardi passed away from leukemia this year after fighting numerous medical battles throughout her lifetime.
“Tonight, Kayla would have been here graduating with us,” said Associated Student Body President David Lazar. “She is greatly missed, but will always have a special place in the Class of 2015."
The family of Bernardi was in attendance during Friday night’s ceremony to accept a posthumous diploma for Bernardi.
“Kayla was a joyful student who loved attending Turlock High School,” said Peterson. “No matter if it was in the classroom, attending THS sporting events, or spending time with her sisters, she thoroughly enjoyed her high school experience.
“She will be missed at this school and in our community, but we are most certainly better people from the impact she had on our lives,” continued Peterson.